Personnel Today Awards 2007: Computers In Personnel Award for Excellence in HR through Technology

This award recognises the effective use of technology by HR teams to bring about business benefits.

Entries provided evidence of what changes had been implemented, why they were necessary, how technology facilitated this, and how it helped the organisation achieve strategic objectives.

Not just the most ‘whizzy’ new software, but rather how HR used the technology to add value.

Award judge: Keith Rogers

Keith Rodgers is co-founder of Webster Buchanan Research, a market research company that focuses on people management and the supporting role of technology. He has carried out extensive research into the adoption of technology among private and public sector organisations in the UK and the US. He has written numerous reports for HR, finance and other senior business managers.

Award sponsor

Computers In Personnel is a UK company that provides flexible HR software solutions, including personnel, recruitment, training administration, skills matching, payroll and employee and manager self-service. The software and support services enable organisations to focus on a more strategic approach to HR.

Shortlisted teams

The team: Global HRIS
Number in team: 146 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 42,000

About the organisation

AstraZeneca is a pharmaceutical company that develops, manufactures and markets medicines. The company operates in more than 100 countries and employs about 66,000 people.

The challenge

The company invests millions annually in its people, but the systems and processes for managing people across the globe were fragmented. A global information system was needed to support managers and HR professionals.

What the organisation did

  • Standardised technology with its Core HR system in 11 countries, covering 42,000 staff. Further implementations are planned for later this year.

  • Created top-level, company-wide alignment and commitment to the change. The senior executive team was the first to be trained on the system, with a video expressing their support used in training and communications events.

  • Established a governance structure to provide clear accountabilities for steering, financial scrutiny and risk escalation.

Benefits and achievements

  • Reduced time-to-hire and enhanced employer brand in competitive markets where getting quality sales staff quickly is the key to driving growth.

  • Transparent, consistent, integrated people information at the push of a button.

  • Costs saved by eliminating upgrades locally, decommissioning multiple existing systems and removing paper payslips.

The judge says:

“AstraZeneca is carrying out a huge project to standardise its HR systems and processes globally, looking to deliver benefits ranging from consistent service delivery and cost efficiencies to improving management information about its 66,000 employees. Tackling the teamwork, leadership, and project management demands of this kind of initiative is a major undertaking.”

Jobcentre Plus
The team: Jobcentre Plus HR Portfolio
Number in team: 50 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 77,000

About the organisation

Jobcentre Plus is a government agency supporting people of working age from welfare into work, and helping employers to fill their vacancies. The agency is part of the Department for Work and Pensions.

The challenge

Training for the assessment and payment of social security benefits for new employees took 15 weeks. The organisation wanted to reduce the time it took to train new recruits and to cut costs.

What the organisation did

  • Developed a new programme of blended learning that integrated e-learning with other methods such as classroom and open learning.

  • Signed a deal with PA Consulting and other subcontractors and worked alongside in joint teams to deliver the project.

  • Gained clear support from senior executives to help ensure momentum was not lost and prevent the project from getting bogged down.

Benefits and achievements

  • Training time reduced by 60% – the equivalent of making 400 full-time employees available to the business.

  • Cost of training reduced with savings on trainers, travel, accommodation and materials.

  • The organisation can now design and build e-learning systems in the same time it previously took just to carry out the design.

  • The largest e-learning programme in UK government, and one of the largest in Europe.

The judge says:

“Jobcentre Plus demonstrated pragmatism and strong leadership to overcome the challenges it encountered during a large e-learning project, designed to improve training for new recruits. It highlights significant benefits from the public/private sector initiative, including speeding up time-to-productivity for new recruits, reducing costs, and increasing the adaptability of its learning programmes.”

Big Lottery Fund
The team: HR team
Number in team: 16 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 950

About the organisation

The Big Lottery Fund (known as BIG) is entrusted with handing out half the money raised by the National Lottery for good causes, working with a budget of about £630m every year.

The challenge BIG has faced a period of significant internal changes, driven by government efficiency requirements and the objective of being a world-class funding body. As a result, it decided to consolidate its nine regional operations into two new operational centres.

What the organisation did

  • Developed a three-year HR strategy to oversee a challenging redundancy and recruitment programme.

  • Migrated all HR services and processes to a self-service online portal.

  • Re-engineered HR policies to reflect changed requirements and train the new HR team.

  • Worked with external partners to build a job family framework, underpinned by behavioural and technical competencies.

Benefits and achievements

  • The HR team has been reduced from 22 to 16 members of staff, who are all now able to take a more consultative role.

  • Self-service has reduced transactional processing and allowed HR to identify and tackle issues raised at its shared-service centre.

  • Employee survey shows a marked change in attitude throughout the organisation, more aligned to business objectives.

The judge says:

“In the course of restructuring, BIG has created a shared-service centre, introduced broad-ranging HR self-service and implemented a competency management initiative. Aside from the tangible results it records in terms of quality of HR service and focus, the cross-functional teamworking and pragmatic approach to the projects were impressive.”

McDonald’s Restaurants
The team: Reputation Team (HR)
Number in team: 5 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 67,000

About the organisation

McDonald’s is the world’s largest and most well-known fast-food chain. It serves more than 2.5 million customers in the UK every day.

The challenge

The company wanted to provide open access to nationally accredited qualifications, as part of its learning and development strategy. However, the development content needed to be presented alongside lifestyle information to make it both entertaining and compelling.

What the organisation did

  • Developed – an intranet site for its 67,000 employees.

  • Established a cross-functional team to act as a steering group for the project. Everything from the design to the name of the site was created in consultation with staff.

  • A team of more than 200 employees was involved in the rigorous testing process at each stage.

  • Gained widespread media coverage of the site’s high-profile launch.

Benefits and achievements

  • The site has 8,000 registered users, with 1,117 employees studying for qualifications.

  • Staff retention is at an all-time high, with 91% stating they would recommend McDonald’s to a friend, and 79% stating they feel valued by the company.

  • The company’s external reputation has also benefited, with praise received from employers’ organisations and leading business figures.

The judge says:

“McDonald’s has brought new energy to the concept of the corporate intranet, wrapping skills training within lifestyle content to communicate and better engage with its employees. As part of its efforts to improve its employer brand image, it has created a well-used resource that plays an important role in employee development, motivation and retention.”

Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
The team: Personnel Systems Team
Number in team: 7 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 4,287

About the organisation

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is a local council serving a population of approximately 160,000 people. It contains many of the most exclusive residential districts in London, including Notting Hill and Holland Park. The borough has the largest number of high-earners of any local government district in the country.

The challenge

The council wanted to transform its personnel function from an inefficient collection of silos, bogged down with paperwork in 2003, to a centralised, highly efficient and technology-enabled team driving the organisation forward.

What the organisation did

  • Set up a team to manage the new e-HR project. Consulted with union representatives and line managers in focus groups.

  • Ran a series of launch events to put the change in the context of the broader personnel strategy.

  • All system users received training through departmental workshops and e-learning demonstrations.

Benefits and achievements

  • Saved £195,000 in the first year, with a further £250,000 saved in the subsequent three years.

  • Five hundred staff now work from home as a result of the implementation. It is now virtually a paper-free HR department.

  • Absence management process improvements are saving £30,500 in staff time per year.

  • Filing room emptied, freeing up space worth £10,750 per year.

The judge says:

“Aside from becoming ‘the nearest thing to a paperless HR department in local government’, the council points to significant benefits from its ongoing IT initiatives, including improved cost reduction, absence management and recruitment administration. Its creative approach has also allowed for widespread homeworking and resource sharing with other organisations.”

For more information, go to the Personnel Today Awards website.

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